CA Central Coast Trip

Old Oct 25th, 2020, 12:20 PM
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CA Central Coast Trip

We're thinking of taking a trip to the Central Coast next year.

Originally we thought we'd fly into SFO and then head down to Monterey/Carmel/Pacific Grove area and Big Sur then see Hearst Castle, then the Paso Robles wine region and then down to Santa Barbara.

But it now seems like too much. We hate rushing from place to place and like to base ourselves in one spot. For example when we did the wine country, we went twice, basing ourselves the first time in Napa Valley and the 2nd time in Sonoma Valley. We like to wander around and relax and really see an area.

We've never been to Santa Barbara so want to spend some time there - how much would you recommend? 2-3 nights? We're also interested in seeing Solvang and maybe Los Olivos, Pismo Beach, SLO, Does it make sense to try and see Hearst Castle this trip or save it for the Carmel/Monterey/Big Sur trip? As I'm writing this, it seems we need to do Hearst Castle with Carmel/Monterey? I guess I don't have a good sense how much there is to see in each area and how close together things are.

Should we plan a couple of nights in Paso Robles or just drive there for the day from Santa Barbara? (I don't have a sense how much there is to see). I'm thinking best to stay for 1-2 nights so we aren't driving after wine tasting.

We are thinking @ 5-6 days total for our trip. We will be flying from the East Coast.

Also, is there a shuttle to/from Santa Barbara and LAX?

Thx!
o

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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 04:15 PM
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a few random comments:

There is an AirBus service from LAX to Santa Barbara -- but it takes 2.5 hours.

You can fly into Santa Barbara, no need to drive up from LAX (AA, DL, Alaska, UA - others I assume)

I really do like Santa Barbara . . . but prefer the Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur area for a short trip.

There are more wineries/vineyards down south but there are plenty up in Monterey County too.

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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 04:48 PM
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Hearst Castle is midway in driving time between Monterey and Santa Barbara.


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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 05:54 PM
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If you're into wines, Paso Robles is not a reasonable day-trip from Santa Barbara. It's over two hours each way, and there are well over 200 wineries in the Paso area. PR is gorgeous in the spring, but, be aware, in summer it gets beastly hot. Autumn is pretty as long as there are no fires anywhere nearby.

There are also well over 100 wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is about the same number as Sonoma Valley. I'd put Solvang low on my priority list, but I do like Los Olivos. The drive between Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley on Hwy. 154 is very scenic.

If you intend to visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day, you'll probably encounter minimum stay requirements between Friday and Sunday and sometimes between Thursday and Sunday.

I could easily spend a week in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles. I suppose you could add Hearst Castle (about an hour from PR), but a lot would depend on where you fly into and out of. This might be the sort of trip I'd think about but not finalize until the Covid situation is clearer. Wine-tasting right now is an evolving activity and not available at all of the usual wineries. Hearst Castle is closed indefinitely, and they have a lot to figure out before visitors will be allowed in.

https://www.latimes.com/travel/story...thout-tourists
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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 08:27 PM
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Now that I recall -- I think Delta has departed the Santa Barbara market - likely due to their covid-19 cut backs. But you can get get direct flights from (or via connection through) Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Phoenix and other major hubs.
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Old Oct 25th, 2020, 09:15 PM
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In the past, there have been flights into San Luis Obispo via Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, LAX, SFO, as well as Seattle and Portland. (You'd have to check what service is still operating.) SLO Airport is about 45 minutes from Paso Robles and under 2 hours from Santa Barbara. The drive from SLO to SB would be through the Santa Ynez Valley.

If you can fly into Burbank Airport and the timing works, there is train service directly from the airport to downtown Santa Barbara. It's about a 2-hour ride, but departures are not frequent.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 03:37 AM
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Thanks all! Lots to think about. We are in the very early stages of just looking at what is possible, developing a sketch of an itinerary and checking ballpark costs to see what is doable. We are high risk COVID so would not formally plan anything until next year.

I do see now that Hearst Castle - and it seems - Paso Robles - are midway between Carmel and Santa Barbara. Our thought was to spend a few nights - 2 nights/3 days in either Carmel or Santa Barbara and take day trips from there (between Carmel and Paso Robles or between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles), and spend 2 nights/3 days in Paso Robles either with the Carmel trip or the Santa Barbara trip - wherever it fits best. Same with Hearst Castle - not sure if it fits best with Carmel or Santa Barbara..

What I am trying to figure out now is 1) is 2 nights/3 days in Carmel and Santa Barbara enough and 2) would Paso Robles and Hearst Castle work better with the Carmel trip or the Santa Barbara trip - i.e., which area has less to see that adding on Paso Robles and Hearst Castle would not make it too jam packed for 5-7 day trip? 3) Should we group Paso Robles and Hearst Castle or split - i.e. if it makes more sense to include Paso Robles as part of the Carmel trip do we also include Hearst Castle or do Hearst Castle with the Santa Barbara trip.

Could anyone lay out the "must sees" for the Carmel trip and the Santa Barbara trip? This is what we had - Carmel - Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Big Sur, Ano Nuevo Reserve, Julia Pfeifer State Park, Hearst Castle, Cambria, ? Paso Robles, and the Santa Barbara trip - Santa Barbara, Ballard, Solvang, Los Olivos, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Atascadero, Cambria, possible Ojai - possibly Hearst Castle and Paso Robles.

Would you include Paso Robles and Hearst Castle with the Carmel trip or the Santa Barbara trip?

We've decided we can do up to 7 days for the trip, which includes travel to/from. We will most likely travel early May and our schedules are very flexible.

Thanks for all the suggetsions thus far!!

Last edited by wanderer1; Oct 26th, 2020 at 03:55 AM.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 06:17 AM
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Currently the Amtrak Coast Starlight is running on a 3 day a week schedule. I am hoping that they return to a daily schedule sometime next summer depending on Covid and the demand for travel. On days that the train runs, it has stops in Emeryville and Oakland in the morning and arrives in Santa Barbara about 6 PM. There is a good bus service between downtown SB and the airport in Goleta. Rental cars are available in SB and out at the airport. I'm hoping that the shuttle bus service from the Santa Barbara airport and LAX will continue at least in the summer.
My favorites in SB are the zoo and the mission on top of the hill.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 07:20 AM
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Paso is literally halfway between Carmel and SB unless you drive Hwy. 1 between Carmel and PR which would add at least another hour, but then you'd pass Hearst Castle on the way.

You need to choose whether you want to go to Carmel or SB based on your interests. Either answer is correct. But if wine is a priority, I'd pick SB. I'd want to spend more nights in Carmel than in SB, but again that's based on my interests and not yours.

You should spend some time on maps.google.com and find the drive times between points. When you get the google estimate, add at least 10% for a more real-life idea. Only you can know how much time you want to spend sitting in a car. Some of the places on your list wouldn't be on my list (but that's why it's YOUR list)... Ojai is too far unless you're driving to or from Burbank or LAX, some places would be just a drive-by/thru for me (Morro Bay, Atascadero), there isn't much to Ballard other than the surrounding scenery. As I mentioned upthread, Solvang doesn't appeal to me.

Look into the possibility of flying into one city and out of another.

FWIW... In early May, I'd probably pick the southern itinerary.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 01:45 PM
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Paso Robles is NOT a daytrip from Carmel despite what Google Maps might say, since you would normally want to drive Highway 1 through Big Sur which is one of the most scenic drives in the US and parts are posted at 25 and 35mph whereas Google assumes you will drive 55 or 65mph with NO stops for anything.
Paso does get very hot in summer but you could stay in Cambria and from there it is a short drive to Paso wine country.
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Old Oct 26th, 2020, 02:55 PM
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I would not do Paso as a day trip from Santa Barbara either.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 04:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean View Post
Paso is literally halfway between Carmel and SB unless you drive Hwy. 1 between Carmel and PR which would add at least another hour, but then you'd pass Hearst Castle on the way.

You need to choose whether you want to go to Carmel or SB based on your interests. Either answer is correct. But if wine is a priority, I'd pick SB. I'd want to spend more nights in Carmel than in SB, but again that's based on my interests and not yours.

You should spend some time on maps.google.com and find the drive times between points. When you get the google estimate, add at least 10% for a more real-life idea. Only you can know how much time you want to spend sitting in a car. Some of the places on your list wouldn't be on my list (but that's why it's YOUR list)... Ojai is too far unless you're driving to or from Burbank or LAX, some places would be just a drive-by/thru for me (Morro Bay, Atascadero), there isn't much to Ballard other than the surrounding scenery. As I mentioned upthread, Solvang doesn't appeal to me.

Look into the possibility of flying into one city and out of another.

FWIW... In early May, I'd probably pick the southern itinerary.
Thank you. Does Paso Robles make more sense adding to the Carmel trip or the SB trip? We would spend 2-3 nights in PR, not do it as a day trip. What is a better time of year to go to Carmel?
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 06:26 AM
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Some thoughts from a similar trip last October:

We flew into Monterey (United) and home from Santa Barbara (Delta, not an option right now) and that worked well. Both airports are a breeze to use, especially renting a car, and they avoid major metro area traffic. I find LAX to be a bother with the scattered rental car lots and the congestion around the terminals but maybe that's changed.

Maybe we missed the boat but the appeal of Carmel was lost on us and it puts traffic congestion between you and Monterey Bay. Pacific Grove seemed the choicest location for lodging to us.

We spent 3 nights in Santa Barbara which was too much. It's pretty, but more a weekend destination for LA than anything else. Unless you are looking to veg out in the sun you can skip it, and stick to your northern loop suggestion.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by wanderer1 View Post
Thank you. Does Paso Robles make more sense adding to the Carmel trip or the SB trip? We would spend 2-3 nights in PR, not do it as a day trip. What is a better time of year to go to Carmel?
FYI: On the days that it runs (hopefully daily next summer) the southbound Amtrak Coast Starlight leaves Emeryville about 8:20AM (sometimes late) and arrives in Paso Robles between 1:30 and 1:45PM. Continuing south it arrives in downtown Santa Barbara about 6 and Los Angeles Union Station at 9PM. To me looking out the window on the train is more enjoyable than driving along the coast.
There is a nice stretch of tracks south of Santa Barbara that are between the highway and the ocean.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by wanderer1 View Post
Thank you. Does Paso Robles make more sense adding to the Carmel trip or the SB trip? We would spend 2-3 nights in PR, not do it as a day trip. What is a better time of year to go to Carmel?
IMO, it's the rest of the itinerary that needs to be decided. You can pair PR with either Carmel or SB, but PR is not a day trip from either. I would look into whether you can fly into and out of different airports so that the itinerary could be linear rather than circular. Your flight options might help you figure out which itinerary works best at this time. Unfortunately, this research may be only marginally accurate now for service 5+ months in the future.

I love the Carmel/Monterey area in early fall/late summer. I personally wouldn't count on Hearst Castle in spring 2021. It might very well be open, but it's likely that tour sizes and frequency will be greatly reduced which might make reservations and planning tough. Unless you think you'll never return to California, I'd leave HC for another trip in the post-Covid era.

The train from SB all the way to Union Station is only scenic in short segments. A lot of the ride is typical views of the "backside" of a city. Then you have to get to LAX (anywhere from 30-50 minutes, depending on the time of day). If you could fly out of Burbank, you'd avoid the most unattractive parts of the train ride and avoid that last leg by bus or car. This train doesn't always run on time, so you'd have to build in a time cushion before a departing flight. Safer to spend the night prior to the flight closer to the airport.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by wanderer1 View Post
Thank you. Does Paso Robles make more sense adding to the Carmel trip or the SB trip? We would spend 2-3 nights in PR, not do it as a day trip. What is a better time of year to go to Carmel?
It makes no difference if you add Paso Robles to the Carmel or the SB trip since you'll be staying 2-3 nights and not doing it as an overnight. Paso is basically mid-way between both cities. I would be flexible on which trip you decide to take since there's a good possibility that Highway 1 will end up closed again. I hate to say that but with the recent fire we could very well have major mudslides again.

Last edited by AustinTraveler; Oct 27th, 2020 at 09:28 AM.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 10:29 AM
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Two nights is plenty in Paso Robles.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 10:35 AM
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AustinTraveler makes a good point. With a possible May timeframe I actually would wait until after the first of the year to even start planning, looking at flights, deciding which itinerary, etc. Maybe make a preliminary decision by Jan or Feb and final bookings maybe by late March/early April. There are sooooo many variables/uncertainties: The covid situation next Spring, airline schedules which are changing by the month, if Hwy 1 makes it through the winter in mostly one piece, if here are more fires this Fall, Hearst Castle's accessibility, which hotels are still operating . . .



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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 12:19 PM
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I liked Carmel to stay in, and last time we visited was in May, very pretty and not too busy. But it has gotten a bit too "twee" for my tastes nowadays so I would pick Santa Barbara. It had a lovely climate, terrific restaurants both in town and in the Santa Ynez Valley (you could add a night or two staying in that area to visit a few wineries). As far as the wines themselves go, this is purely personal tastes but I prefer the wines in Paso (Santa Ynez is heavy on a lot of Rhones) but the countryside in the Santa Ynez Valley wins hands down with its gently rolling hills and live oaks.
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Old Oct 27th, 2020, 07:35 PM
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Here is a link to an email I get regarding SLO county.

https://highway1discoveryroute.com/a...4c166-59171433
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